China’s Military Aid to Zimbabwe Sparks Fears of Regional Expansion

A donation of military equipment from China to Zimbabwe raises concerns about China’s growing influence and ambitions in the Southern African region.

by Motoni Olodun

China has donated a large consignment of military equipment to Zimbabwe, raising concerns about its growing influence and ambitions in the Southern African region.

The donation, which was received by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday, includes armored fighting vehicles, personnel carriers, ambulances, motorized water purifiers, patrol boats, minibusses, sniper rifles, machine guns, and hand pistols.

The Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, who presented the equipment at Inkomo Mechanized Brigade, praised the historical ties between the two countries and said China has been a reliable and consistent friend.

President Mnangagwa thanked the Chinese Government and said the donation will enhance the capacity and mobility of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF).

China has been increasing its military cooperation and assistance to African countries in recent years, especially under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to build infrastructure and trade links across continents.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China was the fifth largest arms exporter in the world from 2016 to 2020, and Africa accounted for 16 percent of its total arms exports.

Some of the major recipients of Chinese arms in Africa include Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Tanzania.

China has also established its first overseas military base in Djibouti, which hosts the largest concentration of foreign military bases in the world, including those of the United States, France, Japan, and Italy.

China claims that its military presence in Africa is for peacekeeping, anti-piracy, and humanitarian purposes, but some analysts and observers have expressed concerns that China is pursuing a hidden agenda of expanding its geopolitical and economic interests in the continent.

They point out that China has been involved in several controversial projects and activities in Africa, such as building a secret space station in Argentina, constructing a railway line in Kenya that has been criticized for its environmental and social impacts, and allegedly spying on the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia.

Some African countries have also accused China of engaging in debt-trap diplomacy, whereby China lends money to countries that cannot afford to repay, and then uses the debt as leverage to gain access to their natural resources or strategic assets.

Zimbabwe, which has been under Western sanctions for human rights violations and democratic deficits, has been one of the most vocal supporters of China and its BRI.

Zimbabwe has also applied to join the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), of which China is also a part, and is banking on Russia’s support for its admission.

The NDB was established jointly by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to provide financing for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging economies.

However, some experts have warned that Zimbabwe’s reliance on China and other authoritarian regimes could undermine its prospects for democratic reforms and economic recovery.

They argue that Zimbabwe needs to diversify its partners and engage with the international community to address its political and social challenges, such as corruption, human rights abuses, poverty, and inequality.

They also urge Zimbabwe to adopt a more transparent and accountable approach to its dealings with China and other foreign actors and to ensure that its national interests and sovereignty are not compromised.

Despite the potential risks and pitfalls of China’s involvement in Africa, some observers also acknowledge the positive aspects and opportunities that China offers to the continent.

They note that China has contributed to the development and modernization of Africa’s infrastructure, trade, education, health, and technology sectors, and has provided an alternative source of funding and partnership for African countries that face difficulties or constraints from Western donors and institutions.

They also suggest that China’s presence in Africa could foster more cooperation and dialogue among the different stakeholders and actors in the region, and promote a more balanced and multipolar world order.

As China and Africa continue to deepen their relations, it is hoped that both sides will adhere to the principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit, and mutual learning, and work together to achieve peace, stability, and prosperity for their peoples and the world at large.

Source: Bulawayo24 News


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